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Encomiums to an evergreen talent



T. M. Soundararajan ... voice nonpareil

"M. S. WOULD have wanted us to go ahead with the felicitation. Surely she would be blessing T. M. Soundararajan from above because she and music are inseparable." M. S. Viswanathan's emotion charged voice echoed the sentiments of the packed audience at the Kamaraj Memorial Hall, on Sunday morning. It was just the previous evening that M. S. Subbulakshmi had passed away. Singers of the various light music troupes had gathered together to pay obeisance to a voice that has swayed millions of Tamil cinema music lovers over the years. To this day you hear the voice of the man in one satellite channel or other. His songs are still crooned on many a light music proscenium. The singer, who mesmerised listeners with the majestic tenor and mellifluous tone of his voice for over five decades, reaped laurels at many a platform and was awarded Padma Sri a year or so ago, has been rightly recognised and honoured by the Stage Light Music Artistes Association, at its fourth anniversary celebrations. The light music show conducted by Raghuraj Chakravarthy presented some of TMS' songs — all time favourites of a connoisseur.

The height of irony

Soundararajan's first song for cinema was way back in 1946, for the film "Krishna Vijayam" and the composer was S. M. Subbiah Naidu. A few years later when G. Ramanathan recorded TMS' voice for "Mandhiri Kumari," sound recordist Padmanabhan is said to have expressed the opinion that the voice was unsuitable because it tended to break often. But Ramanathan stood his ground.

The composer was sure that the wondrous voice would go places. "If only I had your voice," he told TMS soon after the singer sang his first song for MGR for the film "Malai Kallan" ("Ethanai Kaalam Dhan,") "I would win the world with my music." Prophetic words indeed!

Now back to the gala event. Welcomed with flowers at the gates of Kamaraj Memorial, the seasoned singer and his wife were seated in a decorated settee and taken to the dais in style. It was rather touching to note that TMS did not remove the colourful headgear he was adorned with, for a long while. It showed how much the musician savoured every moment of the occasion.

MSV, T. K. Ramamurthy, Ganesh (of the Shankar-Ganesh duo) Deva, P. B. Sreenivas, A. L. Raghavan, P. Suseela, M. S. Rajeswari, L. R. Easwari, `Malaysia' Vasudevan, Sirgazhi G. Siva Chidambaram — name a well-known music mind of the past or recent past, and he or she was on stage that morning.

"It is no exaggeration when I say that none but TMS can sing a song like "Deivamae ... " (from "Deiva Magan"). Even today when I listen to it I get emotional ... I strongly believe that only a discerning `rasika' can be a commendable artiste. That's why I would go ahead with a tune only if it appealed to me.

"There were times when I would beg, cajole, coax or lose my temper, when recording a song with TMS. But eventually our tussle would pay off, because it is not often that you come across such clarity of diction, expression and music sense." Every word of praise from MSV was richly deserved.

Lionising TMS went on but it transcended sheer flattery — the words were heartfelt and spontaneous.

Be it Ganesh who invoked all the Gods to bless the singer (the way he named each deity without a pause for a solid two minutes was amazing!), Vasudevan who pointed a finger at the film fraternity that had not thought of such an event, Susheela who recalled their days of recording, when a relentless MSV would not stop till he got them to sing to his satisfaction, A.L. Raghavan who went back to the days when TMS and he had ventured into film production, Deva who described TMS' voice as the only truly masculine voice till date or P. B. Sreenivas who traced the success of TMS to his stars and the zodiac, each speaker spoke with earnestness.

The crowning glory of course was T. M. Soundararajan's acceptance speech. As jubilant as a child he told the gathering that it was the most joyous day of his life. If he were to be born again, he wanted to be a singer in Tamil land, he said. "But I also want Kannadasan, MSV, Ramamurthy, G. Ramanathan, Ilaiyaraja and Vairamuthu together all over again. It is avarice, I realise ... still that's what I want," he laughed. The words stirred a sentimental chord.

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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